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Let’s make Christianity in Africa both miles wide AND miles deep …

11 Oct

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“…we have been diving into the word of God, feeding on the Word … and that is what we want for Africa. I won’t settle for less.”
Ambe Rogers, Cameroon, soon to be translator with Wycliffe Bible Translators

Eighteen Pastors and Christian leaders from around South and Western Africa converged on the AE Centre in Pietermaritzburg from 12 – 23 September. Whilst few knew each other upon arrival, they were soon to become a tight knit group who enjoyed rich fellowship, fun and rigorous theological discussion.

Together they completed the first two subjects of the “Preliminary Certificate of Theology” (PTC), an internationally recognised certificate accredited by Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, through African Enterprise’s Training Department.

This particular training session was a landmark for African Enterprise. For the first time since the PTC course commenced in Africa with African Enterprise in 2003, a local teacher, Sipho Sibisi, co-taught with the visiting Australian teacher, Rev Matt Stedman.

Sipho, a graduate of George Whitfield College in Capetown, is the Discipleship Training Manager for African Enterprise, and ‘tag teamed’ with Rev Stedman for the teaching of lectures. His participation on the teaching team propels forward the multiplication of the theological training program in Africa. Similar qualified local teachers have been identified in Tanzania and Malawi for future teaching schools.

Sipho commented, “Many say that ‘Christianity in Africa is miles wide and an inch deep.’ This training is African Enterprise’s way of saying ‘we want to reverse that – we want Christianity in Africa to go deeper. Yes, to still be miles wide but also to be miles deep so that all Christians are rooted in Christ with full understanding of the Word…’”

Obstacles to the gospel in Africa such as the spread of Islam, the prosperity gospel, syncretistic mixtures of traditional and Christian beliefs as well as growing secularism will be addressed by a well trained Christians who are faithful to the Word in their community, Sibisi continued to explain.

The first subject completed was “Biblical Theology 1”, an overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, which explained how the Scriptures hang together – from the promises of God to Abraham, to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and ultimately the new creation. It also addressed the crucial subject of “contextualisation” of Scripture, and the problems with preaching without first properly understanding the passage.

“A common mistake” said Rev Matt Stedman, teacher of the PTC course, “is to view the Scriptures as numerous good, but unconnected stories – a bit like pearls on a string. This subject is helpful in showing that the events unfolding in the Scriptures are all intimately connected, and all point towards our Saviour Jesus Christ and the restoration of the creation through Him.”

An abundance of material was covered during this subject, and students were pushed to keep up. Despite little sleep on some nights, they all persevered and spontaneous discussions regarding hot topics such as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, healing and predestination continued well into the evenings after classes had ended for the day.

The second subject completed was “New Testament 1”, a study of Mark’s Gospel which touched on the other synoptic gospels. Again the study was rigorous but material was more familiar to the students.

The final session finished with surprise gifts and cards from the students to Rev Stedman, to thank his wife and 3 month old daughter for releasing him to serve the students in this way. It was clear that by the end of the training we were saying good-bye to “family” members rather than recently formed acquaintances. However, whilst the various pastors, children’s workers, worship leaders and lay Christian leaders dispersed back to their churches, we know we will stay in touch. Many of them were local and will be involved in the city wide mission to Pietermaritzburg in August next year.

Rev Stedman shared, “It is a tremendous blessing and privilege for me to come over here. I am so challenged by the conversations I have…, the commitment of these leaders to their ministry, their people, loving God, evangelism, and their joy amidst significant struggles and tribulations. I take this home and exhort my own people.”

“I would encourage people to give to this ministry… the church is growing very quickly here in Africa, and there is a tremendous need for training opportunities. Give generously!”

The Preliminary Certificate of Theology consists of 6 subjects, and is the first of three levels comprising the final “Certificate of Theology” (ThC). It is a training opportunity for pastors and Christian leaders around Africa who have been precluded from adequate training in the past, and who wish to be better equipped as ministers of the gospel.

The strategic aim of this training is to empower the local church to faithfully preach the gospel to the lost, to give them the tools to grow in Christian maturity, and to equip them to eventually conduct the training themselves exponentially throughout the continent. Students who achieve exceptional results in the course are recommended for scholarships to study at degree level at George Whitfield College, and are then engaged as PTC teachers for future training schools.

The next training session will be conducted in March 2012 and enrolments are currently open for student applications.

Those interested in commencing the Certificate should contact Darien or Sipho on 033 347 7051 for further information about the registration process. Accepted applicants will receive materials in advance for pre-reading and study (highly recommended).

What some of the students have to say …

 “I have been in most of KwaZulu Natal where pastors are preaching and evangelising, and I have discovered that people are not bringing out the word of God as they are supposed to…”  Thabo J. Phenduka, South Africa, Lay Pastor

“ … some people display themselves instead of displaying Christ. And yet people are looking for Christ and not for us…”  Mandla Dlamini, South Africa, Pastor

“…it was good to be in the presence of God, and to wrestle with the Scriptures …” Victor Masindi, South Africa, Youth and Small Group Leader

“My heart is crying out for the training of those who are called to be in the ministry [in Africa] … it is not about any church but about Jesus Christ.” Thabo J. Phenduka, South Africa, Lay Pastor

“They haven’t just benefitted individuals but also churches … and our churches in turn are going to go out into the community… so they have actually impacted thousands of people with the gospel without realising it!” Mandla Dlamini, South Africa, Pastor

“I have already started praying for those who are supporting this ministry because they have given us a very important opportunity that we might grow in the knowledge of the gospel…” Skhumbuso Dube, South Africa, Founder and Senior Pastor

“Thank you to everyone who made this possible for us – this is a chance of a life time! You don’t get these opportunities often, particularly as young people.” Tanya Terry, South Africa, Worship leader

 “…now I am bold and prepared to cross the rivers and jump the mountains preaching about Jesus…” Hopewell Ndaba, South Africa, Pastor

Additional photos from the training can be viewed here.

 

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